On 3 July, I began writing the first draft of my thesis. My aim is to complete the draft by Christmas. This gives me a very tight schedule so I need to micro manage my time. To see how I use my time, I decided to embrace my addiction to Twitter rather than turn off my smart phone. My writing first day, I used the hash tag #tweetingmythesis to see how I used my time. Since then I have embraced the hash tag and have decided to road test some other academic writing techniques #acwri, as requested in the comments of my previous post.
I Googled around for some methodology outlining techniques. I watched some YouTube lectures and read some blogs. Nothing was really making sense. I decided to reach back into my long gone English teaching career and try deconstructing a methodology from a thesis that used my research approach, phenomenography.
On my first reading, I wrote down paragraph by paragraph the content I thought the methodology chapter was trying to communicate. I didn't worry that my method was different. I just wanted to develop a basic outline.
On the second reading, I recorded the literature referenced in the model thesis. The process of connecting my outline back to the model to extract the references, highlighted how lazy I had been in the initial deconstruction.
Day two, the "How to write a methodology" jigsaw began to fall into place. I began to see the model I was reading had an argument. realise the methodology is not just a description but also a justification and these two aspects need to be linked. There are some things I KNOW in my head from all the textbooks but until I saw it in practice I did not UNDERSTAND. I think this is the most important reason to read several theses before and while you are writing your own.
In the end, I read the model methodology chapter four times with four different intentions: first, to acquire an overview; second, to connect the literature; third, to connect to my study; and fourth, to observe how the justification developed. Of course, the whole process was symbiotic but the above four readings show how my understanding of a methodology deepened with each reading. Very phenomenographic!
Before writing my paragraphs there were a few more tasks. I compared my library to that I extracted from the model methodology. I created a new, better organised EndNote library so I can cite while I write.
I know my outline won't exactly match that in the model but there are many elements which are comparable -- the methodologies match for one. Now, as I revisit the literature, I know basically what needs to be covered, how brief is acceptable and an idea of where in the chapter something could be located.
This week was a good one for road testing the outlining process because I didn't have two whole days I could dedicate to writing prose. I could dip in and out of my PhD. Each time I returned to my thesis I had to reread what I had completed previously. I think, while frustrating, this can be valuable, especially when trying to get to the real depth of meaning behind the model being deconstructed.